Three months after a Rutgers University student was mauled to death by a bear, the state's final of five scheduled bear hunts is set for this week as state wildlife officials and activists disagree over whether the hunts are needed to control the bruin population or are an inhumane practice that doesn't address public safety.
While the overall numbers of bears in the state has decreased since the state instituted the hunt in 2010, some point to Darsh Patel's death as evidence that there is too much focus on killing the animals and not enough on educating the public about how to handle interactions with them.
"The fact that we had a person killed despite having a hunt shows it is not working," said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club in New Jersey.
Patel was hiking in the Apshawa Preserve with four friends when they noticed a 300-pound black bear following them. The group scattered, and Patel's friends, who were not injured, called police when they realized he was missing.
Tittel said non-lethal methods such as aversion therapy to make bears afraid of people and teaching people how to bear-proof houses and yards are effective. He also stressed the need for warning signs: there were no signs notifying hikers that bears reside in the area of the Apshawa Preserve or lists of do's and don'ts about bear confrontations. Photos released by police show Patel took pictures of the bear with his cellphone before being attacked